Supporting the art of dance

As far as this paper’s mandate reaches – arts, culture, entertainment and recreation – the biggest news of the week is the creation of the Society of Yukon Independent Dance Artists.

It is big news because it addresses a major unfairness in the Yukon: the lack of resources and opportunities for local dancers.

Sure, we have Northern Lights School of Dance, Leaping Feats Creative Danceworks and, to a lesser extent, Yukon Education’s Music Arts Drama program. But what then?

We have the Yukon Arts Centre, Nakai Theatre and the Guild Society for actors and singers; we have private and public galleries for visual artists; we have Lauren Tuck’s good works to showcase spoken word creations; and we have many arts and crafts shows for artisans.

But dancers graduate from the various schools and are faced with either taking a role in a play or finding an ad hoc venue, such as Red Wagon Union.

Or they could leave the territory.

That’s what Leigha Wald did. And Julia Taffe, Jennifer Irons and Monique Romeiko.

What of Zoe Verhees and Melissa Ka-Yan Kwok? When they are finished their training Outside, will they be able to return and make a living and be challenged creatively and continue learning?

Well, with Jude Wong’s passion and wherewithal to get things done, it is more possible today with her new society.

Along with co-founder Andrea Simpson-Fowler (a dance hero in her own right as a tireless dance teacher in a community that was thought to be too small for two dance schools) they have provided a framework for more instruction, more support and more opportunity for dancers.

Whereas a year ago, dancers would have to obtain a venue, seek backers and provide marketing and promotion themselves … each time … they now have one place to turn to. No longer will they have to re-invent the wheel for each show and they can spend their time doing what they do best: dance.Now you know why I gave SYIDA the front cover, a Page 2 story and this corner of The Editor’s Page … it is a huge story.

But it is a story of a success that has taken decades and the efforts of many dance heroes such as Barb Phillip, Stella Martin, Lana Beebe, Bonnie Boyd, Dale Cooper, Debra Lemaire, Gail Lotenberg and I am sure many others behind Northern Dance Phrase and other efforts to support dance.

And there have been non-dancers, too, such as Chris Dray and his Longest Days of a few years ago. He helped form a framework to, literally, provide dancing in the streets by encouraging new productions.

What’s Up Yukon has tried to support dance in our communities with 25 per cent of our front covers being devoted to a dance event over the past two years. But when I totally missed a lunch dance series that Jude Wong produced last year, I knew I had to do better.

That is why this week’s issue marks the debut of Dancers Count. The columnist, Aislinn Cornett, is a dancer and dance teacher who will be devoted to dance.

I have asked her to cover any dance performance she can find. And, when there are no performances, she will find a new dancer who shows promise … or a more experienced one who is trying something new.

Whatever. She’s a dancer and I will let her decide what is newsworthy.

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